Pederasty and Homosexuality

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Pederasty and Homosexuality by David Thorstad

[Speech to the Semana Cultural Lésbica-Gay, Mexico City, June 26, 1998. More than 600 people attended the talk: standing room only, and many had to be turned away. This is an English version of the speech, which was given in Spanish.]

"The pederast movement today stresses the liberation and empowerment of young people. Instead of pedagogy, democracy. Rather than a Greek-love mentor relationship, the companionship of independent and autonomous individuals. In place of male supremacy, a vision of sexual, economic, and political liberation for all. Freedom is indivisible. The liberation of children, women, boy-lovers, and homosexuals in general, can occur only as complementary facets of the same dream."

The issue of love between men and boys has intersected the gay movement since the late nineteenth century, with the rise of the first gay rights movement in Germany. In the United States, as the gay movement has retreated from its vision of sexual liberation, in favor of integration and assimilation into existing social and political structures, it has increasingly sought to marginalize and even demonize cross-generational love. Pederasty—that is, love between a man and a youth of 12 to 18 years of age—say middle-class homosexuals, lesbians, and feminists, has nothing to do with gay liberation. Some go so far as to claim, absurdly, that it is a heterosexual phenomenon, or even "sexual abuse." What a travesty!

Pederasty is the main form that male homosexuality has acquired throughout Western civilization—and not only in the West! Pederasty is inseparable from the high points of Western culture—ancient Greece and the Renaissance.

In Germany, in the late nineteenth century, pederasty was an integral part of the new gay movement. The first gay journal in the world—Der Eigene, published beginning in 1896 (one year before the formation of the first homosexual rights group, the Scientific Humanitarian Committee of Magnus Hirschfeld)—was a pederast and anarchist journal "for male culture" with an individualist anarchist outlook based on the ideas of Max Stirner (author of Der Einzige und sein Eigentum). Its publisher, Adolf Brand, was a leading figure of the gay movement throughout the first decades, until the Nazis came to power. The journal continued to appear until 1933. Brand died in an Allied bombing of Berlin in 1945.

Another leading pederast and writer, Benedict Friedlaender, was also a leader of Hirschfeld's committee, until 1908 when he committed suicide. Not unlike today, the two groups—the pederasts in the Gemeinschaft der Eigenen (the Community of Self-Owners) and the Hirschfeld group—constituted two wings of the gay movement. Although they collaborated in some things (for example, both opposed the sodomy statute, Paragraph 175), sharp ideological and scientific differences separated them. In uncanny ways, many of these differences persist in the quite different circumstances of today.

With the spread of the medical model of homosexuality in the late nineteenth century came an increasing influence of doctors and psychiatrists in the gay movement. These viewed homosexuals as a "third sex," or as "intermediate sexual types" (Zwischenstufen in German), a "male soul trapped in a female body" (or vice versa for lesbians)—a view advanced by Hirschfeld. The pederasts actively combated this view. They believed in an inherent bisexuality of human beings and argued that the influence of the medical profession gave the gay movement the aura of a hospital. Most felt that younger and older males were naturally attracted to each other and that pederasty was a positive good for society because it helped to socialize young males and provided them with a necessary sexual outlet, thereby reducing undesirable social phenomena such as unwanted pregnancies and prostitution. A few (Hans Blüher, for example, famous for his book on the Wandervogel movement) believed that pederasty and male bonding provided a basis for a stronger nation and state—a view that, in a perverted form, found a distorted expression in the militarism of the Hitler Youth.

Friedlaender, for example, ridiculed the concept of "a poor womanly soul languishing away in a man's body, and of the `third sex,'" and attacked the third sex concept as "degrading and a beggarly...pleading for sympathy." He insisted on a historical approach that also took into account anthropological evidence, and wrote: "A glance at the cultures of countries before and outside of Christianity suffices to show the complete untenability of the [Zwischenstufen] theory. Especially in ancient Greece, most of the military leaders, artists, and thinkers would have had to be 'psychic hermaphrodites.'" [1]

In their critique of the third-sex concept and their recognition of the ambiguities and potential bisexuality of the human animal, the pederasts had their feet more securely on the ground than did the larger "mainstream" gay movement. The third-sex argument has been thoroughly discredited for years.

Increasingly, the assimilationist gay and lesbian groups in the United States, in a kind of throwback to the nineteenth century, argue that homosexuality is inborn, that it is genetically determined ("we can't help it that we're gay, we were born that way, so please don't discriminate against us"—an echo of the nineteenth-century argument that practically solicits pity and that in no way challenges the built-in social repression of same-sex love). The middle-class gay movement today seeks special treatment for a special kind of person who has adopted a "gay" identity—"gay people"—rather than seeking to liberate the repressed sexual potential of everyone. For them, what matters is identity, not practice. The basic argument of the gay movement today boils down to the following: Homosexuals are born that way, and heterosexuals are born that way; therefore, homosexual liberation poses no threat to the status quo and dominance of heterosupremacy. This is the old "nature versus nurture" argument dressed up in new, accommodationist clothes.

The theoretical poverty of this view can be seen in the fact that many people—including, no doubt, some in this room—change their sexual behavior depending on the circumstances or over the course of their lives. If there is a genetic basis for homosexuality and heterosexuality—that is, our behavior is determined by our genes, rather than myriad social and cultural variables that differ from person to person—it is not as distinct and mutually exclusive categories, but as potentials for varieties of sexual expression that lie within everyone's reach. (This line of antighetto thinking has been eloquently expressed by the late Italian gay activist Mario Mieli in his book, Homosexuality and Liberation.)

The real motivation behind this revival of the "inborn" argument is political, not scientific. The gay assimilationists want to become part of an existing, inequitable capitalist society, not change that society in any fundamental way. Their approach is inherently selfish, not altruistic. They seek minor adjustments in the status quo, not radical social change. They have been co-opted by the heterosupremacist power structure.

One obvious contradiction in the assimilationist position is that if homosexual identity is inborn, as they say, then why do they oppose freedom of sexual expression for minors? Assimilationists argue that sexual identity is fixed by age six, but they deny young people the right to enjoy sexual pleasure with the person of their own choice. For them, "protection" is the key word, not "liberation"; they call on the state to "protect" young people from expressing and exploring their own sexual behavior. They want to "protect" young people from "dirty old men" (I, incidentally, am speaking as a "dirty gay old man" —something I take as a positive goal), but in reality are protecting them from themselves. They support criminalization of young people's sexuality, especially if it involves sex with an adult man. They condemn any adult who helps a young person to explore his or her sexuality. They are like parents—only worse, because they pretend to offer a guide to the gay future.

Of course, money plays a role in this too. This is very clear, for example, in the many scandals in the United States over sex between priests and youths, in which the Catholic church has paid out millions of dollars in an effort to resolve them. If, as has happened frequently in these scandals, (1) the boy came back regularly over a period of years in order to have sex with the priest, and (2) the "victim" waited twenty to thirty years before denouncing the priest, one is entitled to wonder whether his motive was not financial above all; and if there is a sense of guilt, it results mainly from the medieval and hypocritical attitude of the church, and not automatically, nor necessarily, from the sexual relationship itself.

There are also a growing number of gay child protection agencies (I call them "boy dick protection societies"), youth support organizations, groups that work with abused children and runaways (victims of family violence) who are receiving money from the state. But that money is available only if these agencies parrot the official antisexual (or antihomosexual) line of the state funders.

In Minnesota, for example, these gay agencies do not fight to remove the sodomy statute. Minnesota is considered to be one of the most liberal states in the United States (and has had openly gay and lesbian legislators for more than a decade), but the gay assimilationists barely acknowledge that the state still has a sodomy statute when more than half of the others have eliminated theirs, and this more than two hundred years after the French Revolution repealed the French law. They are lapdogs of the ruling-class parties who prefer cocktail parties with the oppressor as a way of protesting against oppression. They also refuse to call for a lowering or a repeal of the age-of-consent laws (in Minnesota, the age of consent for heterosexual sex—because homosexual sex is still not legal at any age —is, as it is in Mexico, 18). The state also has no "emancipation of minors" law, something that is desperately needed to empower minors who cannot live with abusive families; but the gay youth protection agencies maintain a deafening silence about the need for such a law. They do not wish to confront the antisexual policies of the state, because the state is paying their salaries, and they have become like pigs at the trough. As the great black leader Malcolm X once said: "When they lay those dollars on you, your soul goes."

The German penal code in the nineteenth century set the age of consent at 14. In 1897, the Scientific Humanitarian Committee began circulating a petition calling for repeal of the sodomy statute (a campaign that lasted twenty-five years, without success). It hoped to make its proposal more palatable to the authorities by proposing that, in exchange for repeal of the statute, the age of consent be raised to 16! It thereby began a trend, which has continued in the gay movement to this day, to shift the focus away from the consensual nature of sexual acts toward achieving greater sexual elbow room for adults at the direct expense of others—boy-lovers and young people, whose relationships they know (or ought to know) are no less consensual.

The writer John Henry Mackay expressed indignation at the efforts of Hirschfeld's committee to trade off an increase in the age of consent for repeal of Paragraph 175. In his 1907 pamphlet Gehör! Nur einen Augenblick! (Listen! Only a Moment!), he noted that "No law can protect youth from seduction. Only enlightenment can do that." Instead of the law, we should trust the unwritten "law of love." He denounced "professional seducers of youth" who would seduce a boy "before he has reached the time of maturity," but noted that everyone is different and therefore age cannot be the criterion: "This is where the borderline lies, and not in an artificial stipulation of age. One person is mature, yet still looks like a child; the next person is still a child, although we take him to be mature on account of his age."[2]Summarizing his struggle in 1912, he concluded: "it is our task, those of us who love young people, to win them for ourselves—not through persuasion and seduction, but through love and friendship."[3] In 1924, Mackay voiced bitterness at the efforts of Hirschfeld and others to accommodate themselves to prejudices against man/boy love:

For it has been shown again in these years that this love has to look for its worst enemies among those who call themselves "leaders" in this fight and have made themselves responsible, in one of their ridiculous and degrading petitions to those currently in power, who have publicly advocated an "age of consent"—not for children, but for mature boys and youths—and thereby the prosecution and punishment of those whom they know, as no others do, to be just as innocent as themselves, and once again those who love an older age have sought to save themselves at the cost of the comrades-in-fate of their time—a betrayal of the cause more disgraceful in intention and more dreadful in its result cannot be imagined.[4]

A more recent example of this tendency to seek improvements for some at the expense of others was the decision of the state of Wisconsin in May 1983 to decriminalize consensual homosexual sex between adults. Tacked onto the measure was an amendment that increased from a misdemeanor to a felony sex between and adult and a teenager of 16 or 17 years of age! This attack on the sexual rights of young people sailed through the legislature without any outcry from the lesbian and gay movement.

In the early part of the twentieth century, pederasts reacted to the stifling and sex-repressive atmosphere of pre–World War I Germany by celebrating nudity and the beauty of the body. Glorification of the male body à la ancient Greece made it possible to depict and discuss a universal aspect of human sexuality in the face of widespread ignorance, the increasing medicalization of homosexuality, and repressive legislation. Together with this glorification of the male body, however, went a tendency on the part of some pederasts to denigrate other forms of sexual expression—particularly between two adult members of the "third sex"—and even misogyny. Friedlaender, for example, went so far as to reject Marxism and Social Democracy on the grounds that their support for the right of women to vote demonstrated that they had caved in to pressure from women!

Such views were strongly criticized by other pederasts. One of them, Edwin Bab, wrote several articles at the beginning of this century that remain strikingly contemporary in their analysis. For him, the goal of the boy-love movement was "a fundamental reform of our morals," and this could not be accomplished in isolation from the women's movement, let alone in opposition to it. He accused Friedlaender of having developed "the most reactionary viewpoints," and warned boy-lovers against allowing their "cult of the love of friends to drag along with it a contempt for women similar to the position of the woman in ancient Greece." Both the boy-love movement and the women's movement, he argued, "unquestionably must work hand in hand." If both movements could join forces, he hoped, "in the not too distant future, a truly human culture would bloom."[5]Adolf Brand, Mackay, and Elisar von Kupffer all opposed Friedlaender's misogynist views. Unfortunately, however, in view of the antisexual trends within the women's movement over the past twenty years, Bab's views were overly optimistic.

Mackay saw as the greatest mistakes of the German gay movement the following: (1) an attempt to present this love as "nobler and better," when in reality it is "a love like any other, neither better nor worse," and equally able to bring happiness if it is a true love; (2) an attempt "to promote the freedom of men to love, at the expense of women"; and (3) a final error, which was "more disastrous, in my view, than all the others": "This love, persecuted by judges and damned by priests, has fled to the medical doctors, as if it were a sickness that could be cured by them."[6]

Parallel to, and overlapping with, the early pederast movement in Germany were the Wandervogel and youth movements. The first Wandervogel group was founded in 1896, the year the first issue of Der Eigene appeared. By 1913, there were approximately 800 different Wandervogel groups, with more than 25,000 members. The Wandervogel (which literally means "migratory bird") was initially all-male, and organized youth into outdoor activities such as hiking and camping. It represented a reaction to the constraints of bourgeois society. The movement continued off and on until it was largely subsumed by the Hitler Youth.

It was not a gay movement, and its ideology was "lead and be led." The Wandervogel institutionalized homoerotic sentiment—though not necessarily sex—between leaders and followers. This outlook contained an inherent ambiguity: it institutionalized something like the Greek mentor relationship on the one hand, but, on the other, contained an implicit militaristic potential. Today, most of us would find the combination of homoeroticism and leadership outlook less appealing than the free development of all forms of tenderness and true democracy.[7]

One of the leading figures in the Wandervogel movement was Hans Blüher, who joined in 1902 at the age of 14. He was a misogynist who believed in the innate inferiority of women—yet also that bisexuality was the natural human condition. Homosexual and bisexual men, in his view, make the best teachers of the young—a view strikingly expressed by Friedlaender too: "Only he who is a good pederast can be a perfect pedagogue."

Blüher professed disgust with Hirschfeld and his circle, and said that the campaign to repeal Paragraph 175 "was of no interest whatsoever to me." Homosexuality, he said, should be accepted, not tolerated. Everyone has a gay component, so knowledge about homosexuality benefits everyone. Homosexuality is more social than heterosexuality, which leads to isolated coupling, whereas homoeroticism naturally gives rise to larger social units, such as nation-states.

Such views contain some insight, but also have their problems, and are not of much relevance to today. Where the Wandervogel movement looked to leadership and guidance of the young (still preferable to the "protection" approach of today's gay assimilationists), the pederast movement today stresses the liberation and empowerment of young people. Instead of pedagogy, democracy. Rather than a Greek-love mentor relationship, the companionship of independent and autonomous individuals. In place of male supremacy, a vision of sexual, economic, and political liberation for all. Freedom is indivisible. The liberation of children, women, boy-lovers, and homosexuals in general, can occur only as complementary facets of the same dream.

Having touched on a few of the historical and ideological aspects of our topic, I would like to conclude on a more personal note. As middle-class gays become increasingly part of the mainstream, and turn their backs on the ideas that gave rise to and inspired their movement—and even on comrades who fought the heterosexual dictatorship before they themselves had come out—and as the ruling class steps up its efforts to control, police, and instill fear in the population, and as it passes laws criminalizing more and more things, and builds prisons at a breakneck pace to hold the millions it has criminalized (huge numbers of whom are imprisoned for consensual and harmless activity, such as possession of marijuana), life and survival for men and boys who love each other is becoming extremely dangerous. To be an active pederast in the United States today is like being a Jew in Nazi Germany. The United States is becoming—perhaps already has become—a police state. The backlash against the increased visibility of homosexuality since the Stonewall Riots in 1969 is striking pederasts most severely. Thousands are currently in jail in the United States for purely consensual relationships, and the gay movement will not lift a finger or a voice in protest. All the liberation movements of the 1960s—blacks, women, homosexuals, the left—have either moved to the right or, in the case of the left, virtually disappeared. The women's movement and the gay movement have fallen in love with the state and seem no longer able to differentiate between their friends and their enemies. In fact, these days, the gay movement in the United States functions more as an adjunct of the police than as a movement for liberation. Nowadays, I sometimes feel as if I need to be liberated from assimilationist gay men and lesbians as much as I do from heterosupremacy, capitalism, and police repression.

It is difficult to identify with a movement whose primary goals are to win official approval for gay marriage, gay families, and acceptance in the imperialist military. Homosexuals in the United States seem intent on demonstrating that they can be as conventional as heterosexuals. These days, I have to struggle with myself not to be antigay.

In April of this year, Edward Brongersma, a distinguished Dutch political leader and writer, as well as a pederast, died. He was well known for having once spent time in jail for his sexuality, yet eventually rose to a seat in the Dutch Senate. In that capacity, he proposed a bill to lower the age of consent to 16, and the bill was adopted with widespread support, including from the church. Yet, the antisex hysteria that originated in the United States in the late 1970s has reached Holland as well as other countries in Europe. Brongersma was forced to flee his home temporarily by hostile mobs after the wave of hysteria caused by the Dutroux affair in neighboring Belgium reached the Netherlands. Brongersma saw everything he had worked for wiped out in eighteen months. He died a broken man. He was cremated in private within 48 hours of his death, and no obituaries or even death announcements were issued for fear of hostile public reactions.

In Minnesota, a highly respected and prominent gay man who has worked with youth for years in state-funded agencies was recently forced to leave his position when parents discovered that he had an 18-year-old boyfriend (hence, not even a minor). The gay movement has maintained a deafening silence about this.

In my own case, my boyfriend is now 18, but when he was 16 I could not approach any gay or state agencies for assistance with schooling or anything else for fear that moralists and television reporters would turn our life into a living hell. The law stipulates that any person who works in counseling, psychiatry, psychology, social work, teaching, and so on, who merely suspects that an illegal sexual relationship may be going on, must report it to the authorities. Investigation, harassment, hysterical and inaccurate publicity, arrest, and imprisonment are the likely result. Ten or twenty years ago, the gay movement would have been a source of support for such relationships. Today, it is virtually indistinguishable from the heterosexist dictatorship itself.

Pederasty, like homosexuality, has existed, and exists, in all societies that have ever been studied. Homoeroticism is a ubiquitous feature of human experience, as even efforts to repress it confirm. Men and youths have always been attracted to each other, and, like homosexuality in general, their love is irrepressible. Even if it is far from triumphing, or flowering with the freedom it merits and has enjoyed in some other cultures (for example, Siwa oasis in Egypt), still, it can never be repressed. It will continue to find its way to expression despite all the efforts to suppress and demonize it. As John Henry Mackay wrote in 1924 in The Books of the Nameless Love:

They murder our love and yet it lives.
They throttle our cry and it echoes back from the future.

Notes

  1. Quoted in John Lauritsen and David Thorstad, The Early Homosexual Rights Movement (1864–1935), rev. ed. (Ojai, Calif.: Times Change Press, 1995), 54.
  2. Sagitta (John Henry Mackay), Die Buecher der namenlosen Liebe, vol. 1 (Berlin: Verlag rosa Winkel, 1979), 463–64.
  3. lbid., 66.
  4. Mackay, Preface to the second edition of his Buecher der namenlosen Liebe; quoted in Hubert Kennedy, Anarchist of Love: The Secret Life of John Henry Mackay (New York: Mackay Society, 1983), 10 (Kennedy's translation).
  5. Edwin Bab, Frauenbewegung und Freundesliebe: Versuch einer Lösung des geschlectlichen Problems (Women's Movement and the Love of Friends; Attempt at a Solution to the Sexual Problem) (Berlin-Charlottenburg: Adolf Brand/Der Eigene, 1904), 22–23.
  6. Mackay, Die Buecher der namenlosen Liebe, 62–63.
  7. For a more in-depth analysis of the Wandervogel movement, see Friedrich Kröhnke, "'Wandervogel' und Homosexuellenbewegung," in Der Eigene: Ein Blatt für männliche Kultur, ed. Joachim S. Hohmann (Frankfurt am Main/Berlin: Foerster Verlag, 1981), 345–73.


Copyright 2007, David Thorstad

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